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May 22—ANDERSON — With the one-year anniversary of George Floyd's May 25, 2020, death approaching, The Herald Bulletin interviewed local people about the impact of his death, the protest movement against police brutality that followed and the April sentencing of Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin.
Here is what two of them had to say:
Mercedes Allen, 30
In 2012, Mercedes Allen got into trouble with the police because of an argument with a former significant other. She later filed a federal lawsuit against Anderson Police Department Detective Darron Sparks, formerly chief of the APD.
"(The ex) said I was crazy, and the police were treating me bad because of what he said," Allen explained.
After turning herself in and initially cooperating with the investigation, Allen decided she no longer was willing to participate and tried to leave the room.
"I was answering them, but he was being rude to me, and I said I didn't want to answer any more questions," she said. "He attacked me from the door to the wall in the investigation room."
The lawsuit eventually was settled.
"I didn't feel like I got any justice," she said. "I am still terrified of the police because I didn't do anything for them to attack me."
Nearly a decade later, and even after the protests following the death of George Floyd at the hand of police officers in Minneapolis, Allen doesn't believe things have become safer for her three daughters.
"I thought it was a really sad situation and it kind of reminded me of the situation I went through with the police," she said of Floyd's death. "I cried any time I looked at anything about George Floyd, and that could have happened to me. I'm still terrified of the police because of that situation."
The police and their culture remain the same, Allen said. The only thing that's changed is more people are aware of the reality Black people face on the streets, she said.
"It seems like (the police are) a gang, and they will do anything to you if you let them," she said. "I don't feel like it's going to help the police learn anything because they're above us, especially with the government and judges. They are going to believe them first."
Even with the conviction of Chauvin on state charges and the charges he and three fellow officers face in federal court, Allen said she doesn't expect to see any major changes in police being held accountable soon.
"I think this is just a first step because there are a lot of other situations that haven't been solved," she said.
Betsy Pearson, 64
Though she remains worried about her 27-year-old grandson in Florida, Anderson resident Betsy Pearson said she is cautiously optimistic about the long-term impact of George Floyd's death on the social justice movement and police reform.
"I feel like this has been a perfect storm, so to speak," the paralegal said. "A lot has happened, but we're just standing on the cusp of what can happen."
As an outsider looking in, Pearson said, she sees pressure exerted on police departments nationwide by third parties.
"I have definitely seen a rise in holding their feet to the fire, and because of that, I do feel more optimistic," she said. "I don't think this is going to change everything. I don't think this will stop Black men from being murdered in the street."
Though Floyd's death has made people take notice of what has been happening between Black people and the police, what it's really going to take is elimination of systemic racism, Pearson said.
"It won't change in a year or two or 10. It is a lifetime of change," she said. "I don't feel like I will see this change in my lifetime. But I hope my grandchildren will see a change. And I hope my great-grandchildren will see even more of a change."
Pearson said she felt safe during the Obama administration but saw a distinct difference during the Trump administration when she experienced white men declining to hold open doors and even closing them in front of her.
"I have felt a difference in the way I have been treated," she said. "I have never been afraid to be stopped by police for any reason, but I am now."
Pearson said it's not so much the police in Anderson she worries about.
"Anderson is a small town," she said. "We know the police officers. They go to our church."
It's places like South Florida where she breathes a sigh of relief that her grandson's car is not working.
"For me, I almost feel that's a blessing," she said. "A Black man driving is basically a Black man with a target on his back."
For now, Pearson said she believes the nation will see white supremacists dig in their heels with the approach of the 2024 presidential election.
"We still have white men in power who deny that racism even exists," she said. "They have to change. They have to listen to the people who put them in office, which often they don't. Not everyone is white and entitled and rich."
Follow Rebecca R. Bibbs
on Twitter at @RebeccaB_THB,
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